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Ex-Riot devs Believer seeks "a better way to develop video games" with open-source tool Friendshipper

CTO Landon McDowell tells us why the new studio is sharing some of the technology behind its debut game

The Believer Company has today released its internal development tool Friendshipper as an open-source project.

The studio was founded by veterans from Riot Games and is currently working on a next-generation open-world multiplayer game. Friendshipper is a development tool that the team has been using to improve how efficiently they build this game, such as faster implementation of bug fixes during playtests.

Chief technology officer Landon McDowell tells the aim of Friendshipper is to "very quickly make changes to the code, quickly do builds, and then get changes in those builds out to ourselves as well as testers."

As for why the studio is sharing this technology with other developers, McDowell puts it down to one simple belief: "There's just a better way to develop video games."

"We've not had the most fantastic experiences throughout our careers, and one of the reasons why we came here is that we knew that we wanted to invest, we wanted to figure out a better way of doing this, for a multitude of reasons," he explains.

"We want to be able to play test more frequently. We want to be able to, as best we can, avoid crunch and some of the more problematic aspects of game development. And we believe that the game development process at its core is part of that."

Since forming last year, The Believer Company has grown to 65 people. Of those, McDowell says only three – "three-ish," to be completely accurate – are dedicated to the development of Friendshipper (although the CTO notes that other members of the team do collaborate on this project at times).

As such, he emphasises that Friendshipper in its current state is just one potential solution to some of the problems game developers face.

"We don't have so much hubris that we think we have all the answers," he says. "We have ideas about things that we want to do differently and things that we want to improve, but there is an entire industry of game developers that have similar experiences and have other ideas about ways to do that.

"The best thing that we can do is to take a shot at what we think are fantastic development tools that are going to solve all sorts of problems in game development. But we want to quickly share that out and start building a community around these tools and ideas so that we can learn and grow from other people's experiences in the industry."

He adds that Friendshipper is also designed to help make development easier because "the act of making games should be a joyous one."

"We believe that players benefit from developers having a great experience developing games," he says. "So we want to share these tools and practices, and build a community around them, because we feel like players as a whole will benefit from the industry adopting development methodologies and practices."

Our conversation with McDowell also touched on other ways in which developers can make games faster, better and cheaper – something the will explore in more depth during our GI Sprint editorial special later this month. Expect more from our chat with McDowell during GI Sprint.

We previously spoke to The Believer Company's CEO Michael Chow and chief product officer Steven Snow shortly after the new studio secured $55 million in seed funding. You can find out more about the studio's origins and its ambitions in our full interview.

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James Batchelor avatar
James Batchelor: James is Editor-in-Chief at, and has been a B2B journalist since 2006. He is author of The Best Non-Violent Video Games
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